In almost every major auto show, there’s at least one forgotten corner where they cram all the stuff that’s just a little too weird for the main show. It wasn’t easy, but I managed to find the weird corner at this year’s Detroit auto show, and while there wasn’t that much there, there were these two oddballs worth showing you: a fun, futuristic modular car and a giant drone you could, potentially, fly inside. Like you were from the future.
That strange silver pod-car thing that looks like a prop from a mid-2000s movie about a Mars colony dealing with alien STDs or something is from a Chinese company called Quadrobot, and they’re playing into a long tradition of dreaming about really modular cars.
This design has the drivetrain contained in that lower skateboard, much like the chassis of modern EVs like the Tesla Model 3 or Volkswagen’s new MEB platform, but unlike these cars, that skateboard is a completely independent unit, and different bodies can be easily mounted or removed for various uses.
That’s the plan, at least. These always seem like really great ideas, though so far no one’s really managed to make a viable non-factory-changeable modular platform vehicle, but I’m still hopeful.
The other big thing in the corner was the Workhorse Surefly, a vertical-takeoff-and-land aircraft that leverages drone technology to make a viable helicopter-like vehicle that would be much easier to fly than a helicopter.
It’s being developed by Workhorse, a company that specializes in, as the name suggests, working vehicles like delivery vans, and now is focusing on electric delivery vehicles. They’re not really a company that’s focused on flashy things, so that just makes the Surefly more interesting.
The promise of easy, cheaper, more accessible aircraft has also been around forever and has also proved elusive. Maybe something will finally come of this?
I can’t really tell yet, but I am glad I got a moment to hang out with the freaks.